Turning over a new Leaf, with a zero-emissions car

The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont on the last day of March 2015 and early in the morning it was not too pleasant. The air was cold and the wind was blowing, and the OFs queried, “So what else is new?” At least the Home Front was warm, and had the wake-up smell of breakfast in the air.

Quite often, it is noted how the OFs arrive at the restaurant of the day and what type of transportation they’re using. Tuesday morning, one of the “gang” (as a couple OFs have noted the OMOTM have been called by some of their younger friends) showed up with his passengers in a new Nissan Leaf — a zero-emission car. That alone takes years off being an OMOTM just by the jump into today’s technology.

This vehicle is fully electric, can be charged at home overnight (we don’t know how much that costs in electricity) and it is ready to go the next day provided it is just running around town. At least there are no gas or oil changes to contend with.

There is one question though: How much of the battery will it take to operate the heater and air conditioner?  Those two things are energy sucker-uppers.

 The body ages faster than the mind

The OFs began discussing how old they are.  This topic does not come up often; it is not something the OFs think about much — only when they get up in the morning and have to get the body cranked up.

After that, it is a personal thing and, once the body gets going, age by the numbers is basically gone, and age by the mind takes over. The age on getting up says, “Boy, my 80-year-old body creaks like an old pirate ship in a stiff breeze.”

Once going ,the mind thinks the OF is a 50-year-old. That can get many OFs into trouble because that sack of grain the OFs used to lift (still 100 pounds) now weighs a ton to the OFs of 80 years.  Eighty vs. 50 takes over now.

Listening to the OFs say their ages Tuesday morning around one end of the table lets all the OFs know why we are the OMOTM number-wise, but 50 mind-wise.

The age discussion worked its way into retirement and retirement plans. When the OFs were young, retiring, and retirement plans were not even thought of. Many worked on the farm; at that time, the job security was perpetual, from father to son or daughter, and so on.

Somewhere along the line, that changed. The OFs thought it was a byproduct of World War II. A lot of the people of the era before World War II are having tough times now because they are older and body parts are wearing out.

The cost of keeping these people wired together is going out of sight. Many OFs have been retired 20 or more years, and have really learned to manage their money because there is not much money coming in now.

Cemeteries from on high

The OFs went from age, to retirement, to cemeteries. Now that is a progression that is fitting for OMOTM.

One OF mentioned this is the time of year to look for old cemeteries from a low, slow-flying plane like a Piper J3, or some home-built aircraft.  From the plane — and some of the OFs have done this — the OF is able to see stone-wall fences meandering through the woods to nowhere. 

You might even see the stone fences and old cemeteries by driving down the highway now, because it is possible to look deep into the woods where there are no leaves on the underbrush.

These old family burial plots contain many of the names of the people of the Hilltowns and may fill in the blanks of much of the history of the area. These same cemeteries (location and history) could also explain the reason for some of the stone-wall fences, and why they are where they are.

It was also mentioned that some old cemeteries are abandoned because the family has died out, or those connected with the cemetery have left and moved away.  Therefore, it is the responsibility of the town to maintain these plots.

But they can’t do that if they don’t know where these places are. An OF was wondering if it would be a cool project to locate, catalogue, and map as many of these old burial grounds as could be found.

That also may facilitate finding the reasons for all the ghost stories of the hills, maybe even spot a few ghosts.  They are around, you know.

“The old barn,” writes John R. Williams who painted this picture, “is akin to many older people. They’re like old barns out in the field left alone to collapse, taking all their knowledge with them.”


 Lonely old barns

Without realizing what is going on with the barn in New Scotland by the golf club, the OFs talked about the demise of so many older barns in the hills. The farms are gone, and the barns sit so lonely and no one pays any attention to them.

There is no preventative maintenance and no immediate damage repair — the barns take the brunt of it. Finally, the poor things just give up and collapse.

The reason the OFs can relate to these old structures, with all their history, is because the old barn is akin to many older people.  They’re like old barns out in the field left alone to collapse, taking all their knowledge with them.

The OFs did discuss how individuals are restoring a few of the structures. The old post-and-beam barns held together with wooden pegs have been battling the elements for centuries and one OF said many are still as square as when they were built.

One OF thought that these abandoned buildings may still be teeming with life. There are birds finding refuge in their rafters; squirrels, chipmunks, and field mice roaming freely in their stone foundations; and snakes might be raising their young under the old decaying floor boards.

This painting by John R. Williams depicts Jacob VanArnum, a Revolutionary War captain, by his family’s cemetery in Guilderland, southeast of Altamont.  The old Dutch barn still stands on Brandle Road as does the cemetery.


Even after collapsing, the old barn will still offer shelter to all these field critters. One OF said: Don’t forget all the bugs and beetles that will feed off the barn’s decaying structure, then the skunks come and coons, and that decaying barn becomes a world unto its own.

An OF concluded with it being a good thing we at the breakfast table are old barns but we sure are being well-maintained and nourished — look at some of the breakfasts these OFs are packing away.

Those OFs who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont, and who may not still be square, but who have not fallen down yet, were: Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Henry Witt, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Frank Pauli, Lou Schenck, Bill Krause, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey (2), Jim Rissacher (2), and me.